She’s baaack! Linda “Get a Job..and Get a Life Before It’s Too Late” Hirshman tackled the so-called wage-gap in Sunday’s WaPo “Outlook” section. I had assumed that Hirshman would offer the standard complaint: Women suffer from discrimination in the workplace. Not so fast.
It’s as if Hirshman had been reading IWF publications on why a small wage-gap (opposed to a large one claimed by rad fem political activists) exists: Women make different choices from those men make and those choices are reflected in their pay. She argues:
“The conventional wisdom assumes that employers are discriminating against young women, despite the laws against it. And some of the disparity — about 5 percent — does appear to be at least partly discrimination. But most of it isn’t. Somewhere during their four years in the college womb, women develop into candidates for the world of work with 15 percent less market value than men.
“Why does this happen? It’s not as though the women are 15 percent dumber. After all, they enter college with better grades and graduate with better grades. Nor is it self-inflicted, driven by women who opt out to care for children or pick up socks. Most of the competing workers are single and childless and have no gaps in their nascent résumés.
“In fact, what the AAUW report reveals is that, at almost every step of the way, women could make decisions that would keep them even with their male classmates. But they don’t.”
IWF wouldn’t say it quite like that-but we have noted in studies, including our groundbreaking Women’s Figures, that choices women make account for any discrepancy in salaries. Also, unlike IWF, Hirshman, who thinks stay-at-home motherhood is a big waste of time (dummies can raise children-you, Ms. B.A. or Ph.D., have better things to do), has a more draconian solution than we do.
IWF would say: Know the options, know the potential results of a choice and make the choice that best suits your interests and financial situation. Some people might prefer making less money and doing something they love. If you can afford to do this, we say: Go for it.
Hirshman’s approach is more draconian. She insists that women evaluate majors solely with an eye to earning capacity and seek jobs in high-paying fields only. In other words, make the choices Linda Hirshman wants you to make.